Tara grew up in Toronto, Ontario, and studied illustration and fine art at the Ontario College of Art and Design. She worked for many years as a children’s bookseller before returning to painting and starting a new career as a cover artist and children’s book illustrator. She now lives on a 200-acre farm in Ontario where seven domestic cats and numerous barn cats provide inspiration.
Karen: Tara, introduce me to your cats!
Tara: I have seven cats. Blondie, Teddy, Red, Cooper, Oscar, Milo, Zoe, Gracie, and Bear.
Karen: Have you always been a cat person?
Tara: I have always been an animal person.
Cat, dog, bird or mountain lion, it doesnt matter I just love animals. I ended up living with cats when I came to the country. My treasured childhood pet was a dog named Buffy. Buffy and I grew up together. We went everywhere together. In high school all my friends and I would walk her for hours after school. Back then I would have told you I was a dog person.
Karen: Teddy (right) is a cutie! Can we expect to see more paintings of him?
Tara: Ah Teddy… Teddy is Blondies son. He is a sweet shy boy. Generally I am the only person who is allowed to touch him. We decided as a family to keep Ted because he was so shy.
Shy cats often will end up in shelters just because they are so independent. We didnt want this fate for Teddy. I constantly paint my cats so yes, Teddy will appear in future pieces.
Karen: What makes Ted a good subject?
Tara: Ted makes a good subject because I have a connection to him. All of the subjects in my art are like that. They come from my environment. I sometimes use photo reference for backup after I have many sketches. I like to draw and paint out of my head so I naturally draw what I know best. For me my best paintings come from the heart.
Karen: Do you foster kittens?
Tara: We live in the country on a large farm. Unfortunately people will often dump a cat rather than take it to a shelter. It is a sad tale. These lost souls are never fixed and when they are fortunate to escape the wild beasties they turn up at the farm for a meal. If I am unable to catch them right away I befriend them. Then I have them fixed. Sometimes I foster their offspring and find them homes. I have a gang of friendly cats that come and go on our property. We have a special barn for them that they hunker down in and I just keep working at winning them over and spaying them. I never have a hard time adopting a pet out to the right home.
Karen: On your blog, you wrote that Tigger — the orange ginger cat who figured prominently in your work — was the reason you started painting cats in the first place. Tell me a little bit about that, and why you paint cats.
Tara: Tigger. He was the most original cat I have ever known. He was a coveted member of my family. When I came to the country Tigger would come from the city for visits. After a while we became so attached my mom couldnt bear to put him through the constant traveling. So he began living with me and Mom would come and visit him. Tigger did such funny things that it was only natural for me to paint him. He loved to talk in to the phone. He had many different types of meows. If something was wrong in the house he would come and find you. He was amazing and totally bizarre.
Tigger was like a little kid. He liked to sit in my lap when I was working on a painting. He would put his paws on the edge of my desk and watch. He was very good. He wouldnt take off with my paint brush or anything. He would just watch. He was the best companion I have ever known. Tiggers compelling nature was a natural inspiration for visual storytelling.
Karen: Which of your cats do you enjoy painting the most, and why?
Tara: I love painting any cat with a quirky personality.
Karen: What was your inspiration for your popular Ballet Cats series?
Tara: I used to dance when I was a girl. I was a ballet fanatic! I thought it would be a fun to combine the two. Cats are so graceful and athletic. They have such beautiful lines! It turned out nicely too. A fancy invoice with ballet cats in the margins led to my first childrens picture book; That Stripy Cat.
Karen: Do you paint cats other than your own?
Tara: Yes indeed I do. I have done cat portraits for friends and my customers from etsy.com.
Karen: Aside from Etsy, do you sell in other online venues or exhibit in galleries?
Tara: I mostly exhibit in coffee shops and craft stores, and have published work in magazines and childrens books. All of my links can be found on my blog: gingercatpress.blogspot.com.
Karen: Does tea time at your house include the cats?
Tara: Always. Tigger loved to take tea in the afternoon. Tea for me and a little catnip for my friends.
Ginger Cat Press is online: